There are moments I so miss my mother presenting one of her meals with that special look in her eyes. She had it when she knew she had made something really delicious. She would never compliment herself though, she was too modest for it.
She would simply mention offhandedly “è molto condito” meaning “it’s rich”. Then we knew she liked it.
And even if rich, her food was balanced. Always cooked to perfection with no ingredient dominating the others, a marriage of quality and skills.
In my life I have had the opportunity to travel the world and taste all sorts of delicacies. Nevertheless, she is still my absolute measure. I don’t need to make sophisticated dishes. If I can make a simple home recipe like she did, then I have achieved something. Her gateau was the best.
The gateau is a potato savory pie of Neapolitan and Sicilian tradition. Just like sartu, the potato gateau is a dish developed in the XVII century by French cooks employed at the Bourbons court in Naples .
For me it’s family food through and through. It has a smell of togetherness which brings me back to childhood and happy summer dinners . You only need a salad or grilled vegetables with it and may be a handful of cherries as a dessert.
A perfect easy Italian meal.
- 1.5 kg (3 lb) potatoes, preferably new.
- 60 gr ( 2 oz) grated Parmesan
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt, black pepper to taste
- 250 gr (9 oz) mild cheese (e.g. caciotta), sliced
- 120 gr (4 oz) cooked ham
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoon butter
- 2 tablespoon bread crumbs or gluten-free equivalent
Place potatoes in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain, then mash the potatoes. Use preferably a mouli or potato ricer to obtain a soft and airy mash. Mix with the eggs, grated Parmesan, salt and pepper and a couple of tablespoon olive oil.
Preheat oven at 180 °C / 350 °F.
Butter generously a 10 inch wide ovenproof dish and dust it with breadcrumbs. Line the dish with a 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick layer of potato mash. You need to make sure that the potato layer is compact enough on the sides so that it will hold the filling. Layer half of the cheese and ham on the bottom of the potato shell. Add an additional 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick layer potato mash over it. Add the rest of ham and cheese and top with the rest of the potato. Dust the top with breadcrumbs, a good sprinkle of grated Parmesan and a few curls of butter.
Bake for 30 min until slightly golden. Allow to rest for at least 10 min before serving.
Serves 6 as a meal, 8 as an appetizer.
PS. You can make the potato pie easily vegetarian by substituting the ham with chopped blanched spinach which you have quickly saute in olive oil and garlic to dry them and infuse with extra flavor.